This site is maintained for archival purposes only.
May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Marriage Protection Week
A coalition of Religious Right organizations declared October 12-18 (five years since Matthew Shepard's death) "Marriage Protection Week," and it was
officially declared by the President. The Religious Right organizations that
invented it told their followers that it was an opportunity to make legal
strides against sexual and religious minorities; the Presidential proclamation
said nothing about the Federal Marriage Amendment, had one sentence about
marriage being for one man and one woman, and otherwise was about
strengthening families. A
Focus on the Family
article quoted Dr. Richard Land
Southern Baptist Convention's
Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission:
"I really believe this is the poster-child issue for whether or not we can
turn back the tide of neo-paganism in this country. The only way that we're
going to be able to stop that is through a Federal Marriage Amendment." The
Rev. Tom Elliff, of the Council on Family Life, said, "It's so very, very
important for us reclaim the territory that's already been lost and then to
make sure that we never lose it again."
A Family Research Council
includes the President's Proclamation, sample
sermons, a copy of a pledge sent to every candidate for office in the country,
and a list of questions and answers that starts with marriage and ends up
focusing on their usual anti-gay propaganda. The
Traditional Values Coalition
distributed Marriage Protection Week church bulletins that included the
President's proclamation, the text of the Federal Marriage Amendment, a
theological statement on marriage including Genesis 3:24, and next to a cute
cartoon of a smiling bride and groom, an invitation to read and distribute
"TVC's special reports on marriage and the homosexual agenda" and then
"write a letter to the editor or your U.S. Senators and Representative."
More Clergy Stop Signing Marriage Licenses
The Fitchburg, MA Sentinel & Enterprise reported that Rev. Dr.
Cynthia L. Landrum of the
Unitarian Universalist Society of Gardner
will not sign marriage licenses until Massachusetts recognizes marriages of
same-gender couples. "When the first gay couple in Massachusetts gets their
license, signs it, and turns it in I will gladly sign licenses for any couple
I marry." The Portsmouth (NH) Herald reported that Rev.
Kendra Ford of the
First Unitarian Society of Exeter has stopped signing licenses, seeing
"no distinction between the wedding ceremonies" of same-gender and
mixed-gender couples. The Atlanta Constitution
printed a guest column with excerpts from a sermon by Rev. Don Southworth of
Northwest Unitarian Universalist
Congregation in Sandy Springs, GA
announcing his intent to stop signing licenses; performing a ceremony without
a license is a misdemeanor in Georgia (a $500 fine). The Yale Herald
reported that seven clergy, including "a Presbyterian, a Congregationalist,
and a Rabbi," announced their decision to stop signing licenses at the
Unitarian Society of New Haven.
The AP said that it was "about a dozen" clergy.
Coming Out and About in Lynchburg
"Coming Out and About in Lynchburg" (October 9-12) featured a marriage
equality forum at
First Christian Church;
a Coming Out Day pride march and celebration; and across the street from
Thomas Road Baptist Church
a non-violent silent vigil by 150 Soulforce volunteers and a blessing of
thirty families by Jimmy Creech and the Rev. Pam DeFusco of
High Point UCC in Union, Kentucky.
Chris Purdom was one of six speakers at the marriage forum where he
distributed over one hundred copies of the
IWG marriage brochure. Other speakers:
Jimmy Creech, Imam Daayiee Abdullah (first openly gay Imam) and
People for the American Way,
The Lynchburg News and Advance had pre-event coverage and articles
about Saturday's and Sunday's events; Chris was quoted extensively in two
Sponsors of the Coming Out Day events included Soulforce, Interfaith Working
Catawba Valley PFLAG,
Family Pride Coalition,
Fellowship of Reconciliation,
Marriage Equality USA,
Lutherans Concerned North America,
First Christian Church of Lynchburg,
First Light Ministries,
Christian Church of Richmond,
Love Makes a Family,
People for the American Way,
Remnant Worship Group of Lynchburg,
Planned Parenthood of the Blue Ridge,
World Congress of Gay, Lesbian,
Bisexual, and Transgender Jews
and Virginia NOW.
Anti-GLBT protestors were on hand outside First Christian Church, at the
Pride celebration in the park, and outside Thomas Road Baptist Church. The
group at the park included people with bullhorns who harangued the speakers
and performers, and several small children carrying signs about Sodom and
sexual immorality and screaming "God hates you" at everyone who passed.
A protestor with a large panel truck decorated with the Ten Commandments, and
various political and religious slogans regarding marriage, church-state
separation and abortion drove back and forth in front of all the events.
Michael Sabatino, Jr. and Robert Voorheis, members of the choir of
St. Benedict's Roman Catholic Church in the Bronx
for thirty-two and twenty years respectively, were kicked out of the choir by
Monsignor Edmund Whalen because they had been featured in a marriage article
in Christianity Today,
and their legal marriage in Canada had been announced in the
New York Times. Their expulsions were reported by the AP, the
Bronx Times, and The Journal News of White Plains, NY.
Todd Diehl, music director at
First Presbyterian Church
of Downers Grove, IL,
was told to repent or resign after he came out to church officials,
according to the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune
characterized the 350-member congregation as "divided" following the
ultimatum by the session. The article quoted several members, and mentioned
the dismissal of the choir director at
Holy Family Catholic Church
in Rockford, IL
earlier this year, the history of conflicts over GLBT churches in the
Canadian civil marriage, Lawrence v. Texas, and the
controversy over Bishop Robinson.
According to the article, the church's web site said Diehl "has been an
important part of this worship renewal, as he has brought tremendous talent,
resources and dedication to the church." As of November 1, the
"Music Ministry" page was stripped of content.
Media Marriage Coverage
The Christian Science Monitor had an article on the battle over
marriage discrimination and effects on other efforts to shape marriage
policy. The Boston Globe quoted
Boston Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley,
who encouraged "all the members of our community, regardless of their
religious persuasion or their sexual orientation, to realize what is at stake
and to oppose any attempt to alter the definition of marriage."
The South Bend (IN) Tribune ran a story about anti-marriage
activist Gerald Bradley speaking to a "small and largely elderly crowd" at
First Presbyterian of Plymouth, IN.
Among many quotes from Bradley was this: "What I think the law is saying,
when they say that marriage is something between men and women, is that
it's something to do with children and procreation...and the network of
morally charged relationships between parents and children."
The Framingham, MA Metrowest Daily News
ran "Religions band together to ban gay marriage," about a meeting of
"150 Catholics, Protestants and Jews." The Aberdeen (SD)
American News reported on a
Concerned Women for America-sponsored
event with a United Methodist pastor, Roman Catholic priest, and two state
legislators; it drew about 30 people. The Record
of West Paterson, NJ, Newark Star-Ledger, and
Montclair Times reported on a pro-marriage rally at Montclair State.
Among others, The Record quoted Rabbi Kenneth Brickman of
Temple Beth-El in Jersey City:
"People have this idea that there's a blanket condemnation of gay marriage by
all religions. Those of us who support same-sex marriage haven't been vocal
enough. It's important to show there are faiths that view same-sex couples
The Philadelphia Inquirer
interviewed people who claimed to be pro-gay or indifferent on gay issues but
against equal marriage rights for same-gender couples.
According to a Newhouse News Service story about Detroit State Rep. Trieste
Reeves, at a press conference to support a state constitutional amendment
defining marriage, Reeves said, "From the African-American perspective, which
is the only perspective I can give, our focus is, 'God said it, we
believe it, and we should promote it.' I know that sounds elementary but
it's really that simple." The Boston Globe published an opinion
piece by Congressman John Lewis, who said, "This discrimination is wrong.
We cannot keep turning our backs on gay and lesbian Americans. I have fought
too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to
stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation. I've heard the
reasons for opposing civil marriage for same-sex couples. Cut through the
distractions, and they stink of the same fear, hatred, and intolerance I have
known in racism and in bigotry."
An Associated Baptist Press story on Marriage Protection Week concluded with
information about Soulforce's
marriage forum and a quote from Soulforce's Laura Montgomery Rutt, who said
that the week and the President's proclamation were "based on misguided
religious teachings which cross the boundaries of church-state separation and
the principles of religious liberty."
Episcopal Church, USA
The AP distributed 33+ articles in October regarding the
ongoing controversy over the Rev. Canon Gene Robinson's
confirmation/consecration as bishop. One reported that the
Pope warned the Archbishop of Canterbury that Robinson's election would
cause serious difficulties in the relationship between the Roman Catholic and
Anglican churches. Another said,
"Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh
got a standing ovation from a crowd of about 2,700 like-minded Episcopalians"
for a speech at the
American Anglican Council
meeting in Dallas in which he
"outlined a scenario in which the church begins to disintegrate."
A final report on the Dallas meeting focused on the possibility that the
AAC "could evolve into a new denomination separate from the existing
Episcopal Church." An Oct. 12 article said,
"The Episcopal Diocese
of Southwest Florida
voted to stop a convention already in session, hoping to
calm fears of a mass exodus from the national church over its decision to
name an openly gay bishop."
The Fort Worth Star Telegram report on the AAC meeting quoted the
Rev. Kendall Harmon, theology advisor for the
bishop of South Carolina,
who said the Episcopal Church "is a church where
people have officially been led away from Christ." The
Dallas Morning News quoted several attendees and presenters who
spoke of being desperate, in pain, abandoned, and harassed.
The AAC web site has a letter from Cardinal Ratzinger, on behalf of the
Pope, to those attending the Dallas meeting. There is also a long letter from
Dr. Robert Gagnon, Associate Professor of the New Testament at Pittsburgh
Theological Seminary, to Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, responding to
Griswold quotes in an AP article defending Robinson. Gagnon, who has been
increasingly successful at positioning himself as the leading authority on
homosexuality and the Bible, concludes his remarks to Griswold: "I
urge you to read more widely, and more carefully, as regards recent work on
the subject of the Bible and homosexual behavior."
Pledge of Allegiance
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of the 9th Circuit Court's
ruling against mandatory recita-tion of the 1954 "under God" version
of the Pledge of Allegiance. An
press release said the
Court's decision "sets the stage for an emotional clash over government
endorsement of religion." The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, AU Executive Director,
said, "This case gives the Supreme Court an opportunity to remind all
Americans of the importance of freedom of conscience. This is the most
controversial religion-in-schools case since the school prayer decisions of
the early 1960s. No one should feel coerced to take part in a religious
exercise to express patriotism. A country founded on religious freedom should
not be afraid to recognize that love of God and love of country are not the
same for some people. Requiring a daily religious loyalty test for school
children is simply wrong.” Lynn noted that the Pledge of Allegiance was
written in 1892 by a Baptist minister without “under God” and was
recited for several decades without any religious references.
Fred Phelps "Monument"
Several news sources have reported on an attempt by
to erect an anti-Matthew-Shepard “monument” in Casper, WY. Because
the city has had a Ten Commandments monument in the park since 1965 and
decided to keep it after judicial rulings that the presence of a Ten
Commandment monument creates a public forum, it is doubtful that the city
will be able to keep Phelps from putting up whatever he wants. The
Traditional Values Coalition
distributed an article entitled "'Pastor' Fred Phelps Aids The Homosexual
Agenda." Phelps later stated that he would erect one in every public park in
the nation with a Ten Commandments monument.
Jewish Students Boycott Interfaith Conference
In an article headlined "Gay issue prompts Jewish students to boycott
conference," the Vancouver Sun
reported that a local Hillel Foundation
decided not to participate in a conference organized by
Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at of British Columbia
entitled "The Existence of God and Human Suffering"
after the organizers uninvited the host, Vancouver city councilor and
minister the Rev. Tim Stevenson, because he is gay. A statement
from the organizers said "upon further investigation, we do not believe
that he will be an appropriate representative for the ideals we are trying
to promote." A representative from Hillel wrote to the organizers,
"Councilor Stevenson is an ordained minister in the United Church of Canada.
By rescinding his invitation, you are judging another religion's
right to ordain whomsoever it deems fit, the very antithesis of what your
conference hopes to promote."